FOLLOWING A LONG night, the four set out on a private yacht into the deep ocean in the morning. Elton was particularly excited for this day because, in his opinion, one of the best things to do in this archipelagic state was to fish.
“Nothing beats the thrill of catching a creature that outweighs you three times over,” he bragged to the others, extending his arms fully to emphasize the size of a blue marlin he caught previously in the area. “Although, the hauling in of the five-hundred-pound giant was no picnic even with the help of my four highly competent fishing buddies.”
“How long did that take you?” asked Mr. Campbell, captain of the boat.
“Forty minutes in total from the fish getting hooked. I was hoping to take half the time. So the next day, I convinced the guys, booked another sailboat, and went out again to try to beat that score.”
“Phew! I can’t imagine doing it over right the next day after all that backbreaking and muscle cramping work. This sport can be quite physically demanding.”
“Tell me about it. But oh well, I am an ambitious man, naturally.”
“I can’t argue with that.”
“Speaking of which, my daughter’s really a prodigy of this. She used to love being out on big lakes with me, catching walleyes and whatnots. We did that almost every week in summer until one day she grew tired of me.”
“I’m not tired of you, Daddy.”
“So, Allison, have you ever partaken in any offshore tourneys?”
“Has she ever. Ha! Many. She caught a shark one year that weighed 175 pounds and won the grand prize. She was only fourteen years old.”
“Fifteen, actually. And it was a team effort. I couldn’t have done it if my father wasn’t there to coach me —”
“She’s just being modest. She might never quite measure up to her old man in terms of strength, in every other way, she’s just as proficient at the sport as I am.”
Per Elton’s insistence, he and Allison worked side by side to set up the equipment and prepare the baits. The crew stood aside watching in amazement at their speed.
“Believe it or not, many people we meet on the boat are first time anglers wanting to find out what’s the deal with this game fishing. When we do run into enthusiasts, rarely do we see such excellent coordination between two partners,” complimented Mr. Campbell on their efficient teamwork.
“To be fair, those two have had years of practice,” commented Brenda.
“I assume you are also into this, Mrs. Crawford.”
“Oh me? No, not at all. I’m more of a tagalong. Just watching is enough for me. I would much rather hang loose than get my hands smelling all fishy. Ugh!”
“Haha. I personally understand that frustration. My father was a fisherman all his life. Since I was a little kid, he would have me help unload his catch from the fishing net and pack them into Styrofoam boxes for sale. For my entire childhood, I had to carry that fish stink wherever I went. My friends used to call me ‘fishy boy.’ It was embarrassing.”
“Don’t fishermen shower too?”
“What? I only asked because I’m curious.”
“Haha, that’s okay. You can ask me anything. And to answer your question, yes we do, but after a while, soap no longer helps get rid of that odor.”
“Really? You sure don’t smell fishy standing next to me.”
“Well, I haven’t exactly been a fisherman like my father, but I’m glad to hear it. I do hope that you like seafood at the least.”
“Oh yes, there’s nothing else I eat besides that whenever I’m here in Nassau.”
“Good. Because Steven here is a superb chef, he will be preparing all of you a complimentary seafood buffet served at noon…”
Two hours into their journey, the boat was then fifty miles north of Paradise Island where it originally docked. The sun was warm, and the big, blue sea shimmered under it with water so deep that light could only penetrate so far beneath its calm surface. Looking out over the boundless horizon, one of the crewmen enlightened them, “You guys are in luck. Lately if it wasn’t overcast, it would have been raining by now.”
“What do you want to catch, Daddy?”
“I’ve always wanted a sailfish.”
“That’s generally a rare find in this season.”
“What are our best bets then?” Allison inquired.
“Groupers and snappers are common all year round, but popular game fish wise, I’d say broadbills. The guys we sailed with yesterday happened to catch one in this exact zone.”
“Well, we’ll just leave it to chance,” said Elton, securing his harness. Soon, he made his first cast, and the crewmen started chumming. Next came the long process of waiting for prey.
“Here, Daddy, have some water.”
“Thank you, sweetpea. It seems like such a long time ago since we last sailed together.”
“It’s been over four years.”
“Darn! Has it been that long?”
“Uh-huh. The last time was a month before my wedding. We went on that five-day fishing trip in Costa Rica.”
“Oh yeah, with Uncle Brad. Gosh, time really flies. It seems like just yesterday when I formally asked him to be your godparent.”
“You and him must go way back.”
“I never told you?”
“Told me what?”
“He saved your father’s life once,” Brenda filled her in.
“When was this?”
“I was in New Jersey at the time, going for my master’s degree at Princeton.”
“You guys went to college together?”
“I don’t think Brad went further than high school. His folks didn’t believe in education. Besides, he had his mind set on the career he wanted since middle school.”
“Isn’t he a police officer?”
“He was for a long time, but somewhere along the way he became a detective, and he’s been one ever since.”
“So — how exactly did he save your life?”
“It’s an ancient tale.”
“Tell it again, El. It’s a great story.”
“Alright. Well, I was about Allie’s age. One night, I was heading out to join my boys at a bar downtown after finishing my classes. As I got to my car parked in an alley near the campus, a man, a drug addict, hippie of some kind, came from behind me with a gun, pointing it at my temple. I gave him the two twenty-dollar bills in my wallet but he wanted more. By the way he slurred his words as he made threats at me, I figured he was on something. I had never been so scared my entire life. I was so sure he was going to fire by mistake if not by intention, but in either case, I would have been a dead man...”
“But then, in the middle of it, Brad showed up. He tussled with the man bare-handedly and took him down.”
“Isn’t that what he was supposed to do? I mean he was a cop.”
“Sure, but he was off-duty at the time, out of town visiting his family. He could have just called 911 instead of risking his life for me. Plus, he got injured because of it.”
“During the tussle, the man took a shot at him. The injury wasn’t life-or-death serious, but still. Later I found out he was from Minnesota, long story short, we’ve been close friends since.”
“I had always thought he was just one of those friends you shared hobbies with.”
“You wouldn’t have said that had you remembered your earliest childhood,” Brenda chimed in. “For the first three years since you were born, Brad used to visit you every Sunday, and he never came without bringing you gifts. They were nothing fancy, just some regular clothes and toys that he thought you might like. When you were old enough to walk, you grew to love playing chase with him. One time you fell and scraped your knees, I watched him cradle you in his arms till you stopped crying, even though I told him to let Mrs. Gomez worry about it.”
“That doesn’t surprise me at all. Brad is a responsible man and a very loyal friend. I have no doubt that he loves Allie like she is his own daughter.”
“I really don’t remember any of it. But, if he used to care for me so much, why doesn’t he show it now? I mean, he’s always quiet around me and he mostly only talks to you guys.”
“He’s probably just being respectful of us, and of you too. After all, we are your birth parents, he isn’t. And it’s only sensible of him to keep some boundaries between you and him, woman and man.”
“Is he not married? He’s got to be around sixty something.”
“Sixty-two to be exact, and no. He was married once but divorced a year later. It was a long time ago, before I even knew him.”
“That’s too bad. He’s a decent looking man, healthy and well-built for his age. Maybe we can introduce someone to him.”
“I’m not sure he’d like that. Anyway — enough talk about Brad. How are you all liking this trip so far?”
“You know how I feel about being on a boat. I’m just waiting for lunch time to come around to see what that ‘superb chef’ of theirs has prepared for us.”
“How about you, sweetpea?”
“It’s been great. Dan and I are having a good time. Aren’t we, honey?” Allison turned to look at Daniel sitting a few feet away near the railing, wearing his baseball cap low to shroud his face from the sun. He had been on his phone since boarding, almost unaware of his wife’s question.
“Pardon me?” he replied, looking up at her.
“Aren’t we having a good time away from home?”
His preoccupation had come to Elton’s attention early on, who had only been keeping an eye on him and not saying a word until now. “Hey, Danny! Too busy to be on vacation?”
Daniel shifted his eyes at him. “Just checking a couple of emails here.”
Even knowing fishing was not up his alley, Allison still wished him to be more involved with the family activity and it showed. Elton caught her downhearted look and decided to call his son-in-law out in front of everybody.
“Well, take a good look at this stunning scenery for a change, or your beautiful wife for that matter. It’s only fair to show some respect —”
“— don’t you agree, son?”
Right then, everyone, including the two crewmen standing by, looked on at Daniel, anticipating his response. Under such an intentional compulsion, he put away his phone and just sat there, quietly.
Elton, for one, felt pleased.
Brenda decided to step in to taper the edginess. “Danny is a top engineer. Important men are always on their electronics these days.”
Hoping to restore harmony, Allison joined in to smooth out the situation. “You are right, Mom. As a matter of fact, Dan is going to be the lead engineer for this multibillion-dollar project kicking off in a few weeks. He’s just too humble to say anything. Go ahead, honey, tell my parents about it...”
Before Daniel even opened his mouth, Elton caught the heart-stopping sight of a broadbill swordfish crashing after the trolled bait out of the corner of his eye. What immediately followed was the shriek of a reel as the great fish attempted to rip away the line. “ALLIE!” he called out, and all at once everybody was alerted. His knuckles turned white as he took a firm hold of the rod, applying gentle pressure at opportune moments. “Oh boy! It’s a big one! Time to show him who’s boss!”
Mr. Campbell began to maneuver the boat in order to keep the great fish astern. As the two crewmen raced to reel in the empty lines, Daniel made room for them by leaving his seat to approach Allison.
“I’m going to be on my laptop. If you need me, I’ll be in the cabin.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay and watch for a little while?”
“Nah, that’s okay,” he said, already on his way.
There was nothing she could do about it.
Returning to her father, she stood by his side, occasionally cheered him as he set in motion an epic fight against the beast. Ten, twenty minutes into the battle, noon arrived when the sun was at its highest and brightest. Sweat became a constant pain, not even his sun hat could keep it from seeping through into his eyes. While his energy started to give out, the monster fish was just beginning to tire.
“Let me take over for you, Daddy.”
“I’m okay, sweetpea, I got this one. Come on boy! Come to Papa!”
Anxious to land his prize, seeing it coming so close to the boat, he went against what experience told him and sped up the retrieve for the remaining distance. “Easy… easy…” one of the crewmen even warned him, but he would not have it any other way. When given a brief window of opportunity, the fish was able to break the line and got away.
“Darn it!” he shouted upon it happening. Like a proper sportsman, Allison naturally took to encourage him, “That’s okay, Daddy. There’s plenty more fish in the sea. You will get the next one.”
In turn, he smiled at her and used the clean towel she proffered to wipe off the sweat on his face. A moment of calm later, he hinted at her, “You know, that saying applies best when it’s not interpreted literally.”
She got what he meant.
He sat down on a chair and continued, “Tell me, how are things at home?”
“I love him, Daddy.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Honestly, we are happier now than a month ago. We might still have problems, but everything’s going the right direction.”
“And, do you think — perhaps — his feelings for you have changed? Diminished?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m so sure. Dan loves me, very much. We love each other. So long as we continue to work things out, we will be fine. You and Mom don’t have to worry.”
Elton wanted to say something but was held back by her continuous reassurance...
“There’s no one else I want to be with except for him, Daddy, and I mean it in the most sincere, earnest way.”
Finally, he nodded in understanding, letting his opinion go. “Then, God forbid that anyone takes him away from you.”